Paphos (or Pafos) is a town in Cyprus whose history dates back to the Neolithic period. It was in Paphos that the mythological goddess Aphrodite was born and along with her came the legendary upsurge of cult worship that lasted for many centuries. The Myceneans were the first who built a temple in her name in 12th century B.C. Today, the architectural and cultural remains, dating from Hellinistic times to the Roman periods, are a proof to the city’s long forgotten extraordinary historical value.
The original site of Paphos previously resided in the village of Kouklia that lies in the district of modern Paphos. This site is now known as Old Paphos. The New Paphos, which superseded Old Paphos during Roman times, is located 10 miles away from the old site. Both the sites together form today’s modern Paphos.
Cult of Aphrodite
It is a known and acceptable truth that Goddess Aphrodite landed at the site of Paphos when she emerged from the sea. Her cult was established much before the time of Homer (700 B.C.) as her altar is mentioned in his epic poem Odyssey. Female statuettes and charms found on the site prove the fact that ancient Cypriots did certainly worship a fertility goddess. Archeologically, cult worship dates back to the Late Bronze Age. The Greeks and the whole Aegean world worshipped Aphrodite and not alone by the Cypriots. Landmarks associated with Aphrodite include sanctuary of Aphrodite at Kouklia Village, rough and rugged rocks at the beautiful shore where she landed known as Aphrodite Rocks, and the Baths of Aphrodite at Polis.
The Greek rule in Paphos might have been short lived but it has been important in the sense that it collected huge wealth and was a prominent town in the Mediterranean region. It was prospering and growing by leaps and boundaries when the Romans attacked it in 58 B.C. The Romans not only contributed to the wealth of Paphos but also made it architecturally and culturally rich. Historical remains such as temples, well built roads, forts, palaces, theatres and tombs contribute to the city’s tourism value.
Arrival of Christianity
The Roman rule gradually ended with the arrival of Christianity in the form of Saint Paul in 46 A.D. But the peace and security of the city suffered during the turn of events such as the fall of Roman Empire and Jewish Rebellion in 117 A.D.
Paphos fell prey to Arab invaders during the period when the Roman rule was slowly diminishing. They looted the city, but it was the Byzantines ruled who freed the city from the Arabs and helped it regain its original position. The city was renamed as Salamis and was under the Byzantine control for over 700 years until it was taken over by Richard the Lion Heart and the Knights of the Third Crusade in 1191. But the Crusaders lasted for just about a year after which the administration of Paphos came back to the Byzantines until 1489. After the Byzantines the subsequent rulers didn’t last long with Venetian rule from 1489 to 1571, Turkish rule from 1571 to 1878 and British rule from 1878 to 1960. The importance of Paphos declined with time and by 1974 it was no more than a coastal village.
Today, 47,300 people reside in Paphos and the town is a fast developing tourist centre. An important fishing harbour, the city is divided into two parts: Ktima, the main residential district and Kato Pafos, which is by the sea, is a port and contains most of the luxury hotels, restaurants and tourist places. The two parts are well connected by Apostolou Pavlou Avenue also known as St. Paul’s Avenue. This busy road begins at the city centre and ends outside the Medieval Fort.